Friday, June 20, 2008

EJAC conference call

So, I just listened in on the EJAC conference call. It wasn't too noteworthy, but I did take some notes and thought that I'd send them on to you to sort of solidify my thoughts. I should also note that they were going to produce a summary of the call and I imagine that'll be available sometime soon.

The purpose of the call was to discuss the public health implications of AB32. I got the sense that the folks on the call thought that the scoping plan was not going to adequately address the issue of public health. Here's where my skeptical radar kind of turned on--the default assumption should be that the public health implications of AB32 are going to be marginal, but there were a couple people on the call that seemed to have no clear idea about the ways in which the health impacts of climate change might be different from the health impacts of air pollution. One for example started going off about asthma risk, presumably under the assumption that there was some link…

I think one thing that might be going on is that the EJ community feels that they've been thrown a bone--namely the language used in AB32 to prevent disproportionate impacts and the hype and funding associated with implementing the bill--and they don't want to squander the opportunity to address the issues that they've been working on for decades in some cases. For example, one thing that was addressed was disparities in access to public health facilities (clinics, testing, etc.). I have no doubt that EJ communities do have lower access to these resources, but I have no idea what this has to do with climate change legislation, or how CARB can possibly work to address this.

This became the final of three questions/general comments they wanted to pose to CARB. The first two were reasonable:

  1. Policy tools and policy scenarios (scoping plan will apparently include five scenarios: fully regulatory, fully fee-based, three trading). Which is/are best from a public health standpoint? Choose it/them or at least make sure the worst is not chosen.
  2. Cumulative impacts. Recognizing that there are existing health issues in many areas, when you lay the preferred policy tools/scenarios on top of them, does the decision change?
  3. Ensure that avoided health costs are valued and ensure that existing gaps in public health infrastructure are addressed.
As you can see, the third is a little vague. This was admitted on the call. As I said, I don't see how AB32 is the appropriate tool with which to address the third. At any rate, this was the meat of the conversation. A final point was to set up an additional committee--public health oversight committee or something similar--to ensure that these issues are addressed in the scoping plan. They envisioned a two-tiered scheme where the first would include a couple EJAC members, someone from CalEPA and CARB combined with a second tied composed of public health professionals that would actually carry out analysis in support of the first tier's goals (or something).

Doesn't seem like a bad idea in principle, but I think (and you do as well?) that the interesting EJ concerns should be economics-related and not public health related when it comes to climate change. I'd guess that an "economic health" committee would be far more valuable in this context.

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